Saturday, November 03, 2007

amuse bouche redux

some of you may remember the disastrous experience the dotytron and i had at my birthday dinner in august at amuse-bouche. this prompted my first-ever negative letter to a restaurant (i'm a nerd, and when i eat at high-end restaurants where they comp me stuff because they find out i used to work in the industry, i send thank-you notes) which precipitated a graciously worded apologetic letter from the manager and a voucher for a complimentary dinner for two (no price indicated).

when i made the reservation, the manager, who had told me to contact her directly when i called to come in again, wasn't in, so i just stated that i had a voucher from the manager and was wondering if i could use it. they were extremely gracious on the phone. when we arrived last night, i was unsure how to play it...since i didn't speak to the manager directly to make the reso, did they know it was me? should i tell the server i have a voucher? i had never been in this situation before.

as we sat down, we were immediately presented with flutes of pink champagne, which told me all i needed to know. we both ordered an appetizer and a main course a la carte, and i must say, the fall menu was much more appetizing than the summer menu. it was difficult for me to decide and everything sounded much more appealing.

we started with a plate of warm bread. one was a cumin-flecked bread stick, and the other was a warm sweet roll studded with raisins, served with butter sprinkled with fleur de sel. in the summer, i wasn't such a fan of the sweet roll to start the evening, but for some reason, it seemed to work better in the cool of fall. the cumin one is absolutely delicious, warm and spicy.

our amuse bouche was a tiny lobster croquette served with a sprig of baby cilantro on top of a mango aioli. this was the same amuse as last time, except this time, the fact that it was served piping-hot, did much to improve the flavour and texture. it's hard to detect the lobster, instead, it tastes more like a melange of shrimp and lobster...tasty nonetheless.
i had a trio of rabbit to start. on the left is a rabbit terrine, cold meaty little chunks sheathed in a quivering jelly served with a concord grape jam. there was a rich and pleasantly gamy sausage that packed a condensed punch of meaty essence. on the far right is a rabbit poutine, shredded rabbit mixed with fried potato "pearls" mixed with creme fraiche and a funkily sharp aged cheddar, glistening with a fatty jus. this was DIVINE.
since i usually go for foie whenever i see it on a menu and had played against type last night, the dotytron ordered the foie. it was a seared piece (considerably heftier than the portion i received in august) with a clove-infused marshmallow, a turned piece of roasted pumpkin and a shard of nougatine. it was a perfect blood-warm temperature, expertly seared so that it maintained its' form but was just starting to liquefy inside. alongside the spicy-sweet elements on the plate, it was a superb preparation that veered just enough outside of the classic to be inventive, while honouring traditional flavour-texture pairings.

our intermezzo was a scoop of nutmeg and honeydew sorbet. usually i find the taste of honeydew to be too milkily, cloyingly sweet. the nutmeg added a depth that played on this and made it almost taste like eggnog.

for our mains, i had the roast suckling pig. big, melting chunks of fatty pork were topped with a tail of butter-poached lobster, on top of which sat a shard of crisp pork crackling. scattered around the plate were tender pieces of japanese radish and little souffled potato gnocchi. this was all sitting on a bed of the silkiest, creamiest, cauliflower puree i've ever tasted. it was like velvet. the dish was sauced with a passionfruit glaze which played on the pork and the lobster equally well. it was a smash.

the dotytron had a venison loin with venison sausage served with roasted cipollini onions, baby carrots, brussel sprouts and parsnips. his venison loin was juicy, medium-rare, and so tender it melted in your mouth (to use a well-worn metaphor). the sausage was rich and dark and hinted at livery iron tang, which i thought cleverly played against the fresh sanguine top notes of the loin.

they presented us with a dessert tasting platter for dessert (we didn't have to order). from left to right there is: an almond milk panna cotta with an earl grey gelee (this was INSANELY good. the balance between the two flavours was exquisite, i could eat a whole bowlful of that stuff and i want to recreate it); a lemon mousse; a mango and meringue tartlet; and a campari and red grapefruit tartlet with pineapple ice cream; and a coffee and chocolate mousse.

as we finished the meal, the manager checked in with us to see how we were doing and to apologize for our last meal there. she was extremely gracious and the service was quick without being hurried, effusive and warm without being intrusive, and the pacing was spot on. i thought they handled everything extremely well. we left a $70 tip (we tipped as if we had paid for the meal and then a bit more...was that the right thing to do?) and we're going to go back soon and pay for a meal, to show how much we appreciated their efforts to correct what had been a bad night. they basically redeemed themselves like crazy in my eyes for the way they handled it, and i can't say enough good things about them.

today is a busy day of doing fieldwork and errands and helping the roomie buy a winter coat. tonight we're having a dinner of cioppino (san francisco seafood stew) of striped bass, mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops in a roasted garlic/tomato/clam broth served with toasted giant croutons for dipping. i think i might make a bread pudding for dessert.


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